The Office of Rail Regulation is threatening Network Rail with massive fines if the company – responsible for the rail infrastructure throughout England, Wales and Scotland – doesn’t take action to ensure that targets for punctuality and service delivery are not met by the end of 2014.

In 2011 almost 14 million passenger journeys were cancelled or arrived late due to infrastructure problems which are the responsibility of Network Rail. Delays caused by the train operating companies, such as staff not turning up for work or engines breaking down,  are not included in the figures.

But I have to ask what is the point of fining Network Rail because all that will happen is that this cost will be passed on to the operating companies who will in turn pass it on to passengers. Similarly fines imposed directly on operating companies are simply passed on to passengers either by increased fares or cuts to the quality of service. There are, for example, a surprising number of long and medium distance trains without any buffet cars or refreshment trolleys.

Passengers have also seen a cut in ticket office staff which has forced them to travel on trains without a ticket even though they offer to pay the “train manager” when he or she checks their ticket. This results in them paying for their ticket plus a penalty charge which can be more than the price of the ticket. The rule seems to be that if the ticket office at a station is closed the penalty is not applied but if there is just one position open out of maybe 4 or more, then even if there is a massive queue anyone getting on board without a ticket will be penalised. Faced with the alternative of missing their train, and potentially being late for work or to get to the airport, for example, people stump up as much as £60 extra on some journeys.

The suspicion must be that this is an income generating strategy – even if there are genuine reasons why staff don’t turn up for work. Maybe they missed their train.

The Office of Rail Regulation should look at this and whilst they are at it maybe they should be considering why it is that the directors of Network Rail and the operating companies are being paid huge bonuses when they are clearly not doing their job properly and ensuring that trains run on time and their passengers (they prefer “customers” but I don’t know why) get a decent and reliable services.

The Office of Rail Regulation have made noises indicating their concern at the level of bonuses being paid by Network Rail but if they are serious about improving the lot of passengers they should be fining the directors – that would get some action!

Category: News & Views

Category: Rants & Raves


One Response to “Network Rail Facing £42 Million Fine but What is the Point?”

  1. Martyn says:

    You make a good point about the strange idea that fining such companies will hurt the companies when the cost just falls on the customers.

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